I. AFTER a day of more than usual contention with His bitter enemies, Jesus turned His back upon them and left the Temple, never again to enter within its hallowed courts. But before He did so, He first completely silenced and confounded the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Herodians, and launched forth against them those well-merited anathemas, which brought matters to an open rupture between Him and them, and raised in their hearts that thirst for His blood, which eventually brought Him to the disgraceful Cross.
As He left the sacred precincts of the Temple, His disciples called His attention to the beauty of its architecture, and to the richness of the material out of which it had been built. Turning to them, He bade them mark these things well, for that the day drew now close at hand when not one stone of this magnificent structure should be left upon another. Then, while the evening came on apace, He led the way to the summit of Mount Olivet, followed by His sad and dejected Apostles. There they sat down, and looked upon the city which lay beneath them. What a scene of beauty must have met their eyes, as the setting sun bathed with its splendour the public buildings and the glorious Temple one of the world's wonders, and their own nation's proudest boast. With aching hearts they looked upon all this magnificence, and asked, with fear, when these things of which He had spoken should come to pass. Then Jesus told them the signs which were to precede the overthrow of their nation, and put before their eyes that terrible picture of their city girt round by a besieging army, and torn by bloody factions within the walls. He spoke of the famine and the pestilence, which were to consume what the sword of civil discord should spare. He told them of the assault, the capture, and the destruction of their city; of the burning of the Temple; of the overthrow, the subjugation, and the dispersion of their race.
Passing next to the still more distant future, He spoke to them of the final destruction of all earthly things; of the signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars; of the famines, the wars, the pestilences; of the sea rushing in upon the land; the earth bursting asunder and vomiting forth fire; men withering away for fear and expectation of what should come upon the world. Then, said He, shall they see the Son of Man now despised, rejected, and soon to be crucified coming in the clouds of heaven, with great power and majesty. The Angels shall go before His face, to summon from the four corners of the world all the dead, and call them to judgment. For every man, without exception, shall manifest himself before the throne of Jesus Christ, to give an account of all the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or evil.
II. From both these terrible predictions, you may gather much that will teach you lessons of spiritual wisdom, on this the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year. Your soul, like Jerusalem, is the city and temple of the living God. Upon it have been lavished multitudinous favours and graces, from the treasury of His mercy. To it there have been granted secret inspirations of the Holy Spirit, urging it on to greater perfection. God's servants and God's ministers have carried His message to it, and have been sent to guide and direct it. It has been a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up, and protected on every side against evil. Nay, God Himself has come down and taken up His abode in it. He has set a seal upon it, by the unction of His Holy Spirit, and given the care of it to His Angels, that they may keep and defend it from evil.
All this has God done for your soul. What return have you made for His loving condescension? Just reflect a little! Can you say that you have gratefully received all these favours, and that you have tried to make Him some little return? Alas ! how many are there whose conscience will force them to strike their breasts with sorrow, and to acknowledge with bitter remorse, that they have abused the grace of God, and trampled it under foot, by profaning the channels which conveyed it to their souls. When the Holy Spirit either gently pleaded with them to follow the lead of grace, or sternly reproved them for their sins, they drowned His voice amid the tumult of unruly passions. When God's servants and ministers instructed them in their duties, and warned them against the snares of the devil, they laughed them to scorn. When either duty, or the great festivals of the year, brought them to the Holy Table, they gave Jesus the traitor's kiss in that banquet of love, and received Him into their polluted hearts. Those hearts were once the temples of God, but now they are the abodes of furious passions. They have broken down the gates of the Sanctuary; they have suffered every unclean beast to enter; they have set up the abomination of desolation where once there stood the throne of God. They have done all these things, and God has been silent.
III. But will God be silent for ever ? No; for there is no evil deed committed for which a reckoning of some kind or other has not to be made. Though the accounting-day is long a-coming, yet it comes at last. At present it seems but a mere speck in the far-off future, for you are now in the heyday of youth. You have health, and strength, and buoyant spirits; you fear nothing; no unpleasant consequences follow; and therefore, like the fool in the Scripture, you begin to think that there is no reckoning to be made, that there is no God to notice these things.
But what says the Wise Man ? With the bitterest irony he thus addresses the youthful sinner: Young man, give a loose rein to thy passions. Refuse thine eye nothing that it covets, nor thy heart aught that it desires. Satisfy to the full all the base passions of thy nature, but remember that for all these things thou shalt answer before God. When the measure of iniquity has been filled up, and while the wicked repose in fancied security, dreaming only of still further gratification the Son of Man will come to judgment. There will perhaps be no warning. But as lightning coming out of the east, and, in the twinkling of an eye flashing across the whole expanse of the heavens unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
What would be your lot for all eternity if He were to come at this very instant ? What would it have been, had He come at a certain time which you can well remember ? The very thought of this makes, you shudder ! If you desire never to be taken unawares, let the memory of the day of wrath be ever present to your mind. Think frequently of it how the heavens shall roll aside, like the curtains of a tent, and disclose to your view the Son of Man, Christ Jesus, coming with great power and majesty. You will be standing in the valley of judgment, awaiting His coming, either among the blessed or among the reprobate. If among the blessed, you will fear nothing; but if among the reprobate, you will call upon the mountains and the hills to fall upon you and hide your turpitude from your fellow-men and from the piercing glance of God s all-seeing eye.
Keep this dreadful scene before your mind, and it will keep you out of all evil. If you should now be in the state of sin, reflect that for you personally the judgment-day may come at any time; for if death were to strike you with his merciless dart, your eternal lot would be decided in a moment, and your position fixed for that last great day of terror and of wrath. You have now to blot out, by tearful sorrow, the black catalogue which is written up against you. Do not allow this season of grace to slip through your hands. Be converted to the Lord, turn away from the wickedness of your sin, and ask God to fill your heart with so salutary a fear of that day of calamity and of misery, that it may keep your feet for ever in the narrow way which leads to life.
Say to Him from the depth of a contrite heart: Pierce, O Lord, my flesh with Thy fear, and direct my steps in Thy sight. That fear will teach you to tame your unruly passions and bring them into subjection ; that guidance will support your tottering footsteps and lead you to the golden gates of His eternal Kingdom.
Source: Lectures for Boys, Volume I, Imprimatur 1896